Archaeologists from the University of the Ryukyus in Japan have discovered large parts of a Mongolian/Chinese ship that was likely part of the Mongol invasion fleet that tried to invade the island in 1281. The find is the first intact wreck related to invasion attempts of Japan by the Mongolian ruler, Kublai Khan.
Led by Yoshifumi Ikeda, the archaeologists found the near complete hull structure about 1-meter under the seabed, and about 20-25 meters beneath the ocean’s surface off the Takashima Island near Nagasaki. The discovery is so monumental because much of the hull has remained intact, including a 12-meter section of the keels with rows of planks attached to the keel, Ikeda reported. The vessel appears to be well preserved due to the cover of sand.
Both sides of the keel were painted a whitish-gray color, and the planking was held together by nails. In addition to the hull with keel, they also found remains of the ship, such as 300 bricks which were kept in the vessel as ballast. Weaponry, ink stones, and pottery dated to the Yuan Dynasty were also found with the ship’s wreckage. The research team was able to link the wreck to the Mongol fleet because of these items, and because the structure bears a close resemblance to Chinese ships of that era.
“This discovery was of major importance for our research. We are planning to expand search efforts and find further information that can help us restore the whole ship,” Ikeda told a press conference.
The Mongol invasion of Japan in 1281 involved some 4,400 ships carrying 140,000 Mongol soldiers. A landing was attempted off the west coast of Japan, but was defeated by the samurai forces. After returning to their boats, the fleet was struck by a typhoon that sunk most of the ships – an event hailed by Japan as a “kamizake,” or divine wind.
The archaeologists hope to raise the wreck to the surface and perhaps put it on public display after more study.